Traditional dating advice isn't nuanced

Kirstie Taylor
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

Love is nuanced. What works for one person won’t work for another. And it’s because of this that I don’t like people who give dating advice like it’s one-size-fits-all.

That’s how popular dating advice has functioned up until recently. It had everyone following the same rules and being molded into the same kind of people. Not to mention that it left no room to be, well, wrong.

The kind of dating advice that I’m talking about includes sayings like:

  • “Don’t act too interested!”
  • “Lose weight before you get into dating.”
  • “Act like your best self on the first date.”
  • “High-Value Woman”
  • “Low-Value Man”
  • “If it’s right, you’ll know right away.”
  • “Don’t settle for anything less than perfect.”
  • “Never act too needy.”

If reading that list made you uncomfortable (or flat-out nauseous), then know you’re not alone. Plenty of people are starting to speak up about the unhelpful dating advice we grew up reading in magazines and watching on TV.

Sure, the advice I listed might work for some people. But that advice doesn't work for many of us, especially those who are self-aware and trying to live an authentic life.

So let’s talk about how to tell if it’s no longer working for you:

Trying to find someone “perfect” is exhausting you.

Plenty of sayings exist that go along with the idea of a “perfect” partner. “You should feel a spark on the first date,” “when it’s right, you’ll know,” and “never settle” are just a few.

If listening to that advice makes you feel like you’ll never find that “perfect” partner, then it’s probably because your concerns are true. You won’t find that perfect person because no one you date will ever be perfect.

New advice that will help:

What’s more important than trying to find someone who always agrees with you and meets everything on your checklist is finding someone you can build a relationship with.

Honesty, patience, and respect are qualities you’ll want to pay attention to.

With that said, know that love grows. You may not feel a spark on the first date (I didn’t with my boyfriend). But as long as you’re paying attention to the kind of person they are and you’re having a good time, then go on more second and third dates.

You might surprise yourself with what your actual “perfect” partner looks like.

Your needs aren’t being met.

When I was single, I would try to act as “cool” and emotion-free as possible. I’d heard time and time again about how much guys loved a “chill girl,” and I desperately wanted to be like that.

So I hid my emotions. I pretended like I was okay with whatever choices the other person made. I didn’t stand up for myself and, now that it’s been years later, I couldn’t regret my decisions more.

Acting like I was okay with whatever happened meant I was in many situationships where there was no commitment. I felt emotionally deprived and like my worth hung on the actions of other people.

New advice that will help:

Whether you’re actively dating or in a new relationship, know that it’s okay to have needs. In fact, stating your needs from the get-go will help you find someone who can fulfill them.

So if you want a serious relationship, say that. If you had fun on a date and want to see them again, text them. If you want consistent communication, model that to them (and see how they respond).

Playing games feels exhausting.

Do you constantly check your phone to see if the person you grabbed dinner with last week texted you back? Or when you get a text, do you type out a message but feel like you have to wait a few hours to actually send it?

Does consistent communication from the start with someone sound like a (fantastic) dream?

Then this is a sign that playing games simply isn’t for you. And though some people will go to their graves believing that playing games is necessary for dating, know that’s not true.

New advice that will help:

When my boyfriend and I first dated, his consistent communication was one of the biggest breaths of fresh air. I never wondered about his feelings or if he’d text back. All that anxiety was gone.

So do the opposite of playing games. Communicate with someone the same way you would your friend or family. Don’t wait to send your text or think of a perfectly clever thing to say; be genuine.

The people you date don’t understand the real you.

Think back on the people you've dated thus far. Do you feel like they got you? Did you have to hide parts of yourself, or could you be uninhibited when you hung out together?

Feeling like the people you dated didn’t understand you is a sign you could’ve been hiding the real you. And a probable culprit of such advice would be the kind we grew up hearing.

“Put your best foot forward.”

“Don’t act weird, or you may scare them away.”

“Act like a ‘High-Value Woman’”

To name just a few.

New advice that will help:

Instead of leaving away from your authentic self, lean into it. Pinpoint the things that make you happy, whether that be hiking or painting mini action figures. Decide what qualities about yourself you felt like you had to hide.

Then, re-frame your mind around them. Instead of seeing them as something to hide, lead with those qualities and hobbies. That way, anyone who isn’t interested in the real you won’t stick around.

But the ones who do will be the kind of people you want to invest your time into.

You feel shame about who you are.

If listening to specific pieces of dating advice, whether it be from your mom, sister, friend, or person on Instagram, makes you feel wrong about who you are, then that advice probably isn’t for you.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, love and dating are nuanced. What works for a confident, outgoing woman in her 30’s won’t work for an introverted woman in her 20’s who has anxiety.

Everyone functions differently.

New advice that will help:

When you hear advice on the internet or from people in your life (dating or not), decide if it’s for you. How does it make you feel? Does it sound like it’s targeted to the kind of person you are?

Does it help you bring forward your authentic self?

If not, then don’t listen to it. If you’re in person, you could say, “thanks for the advice,” and move on with talking about something else. If it’s online, simply keep on scrolling.

There’s going to be a lot of unwarranted advice you come across in life, but that doesn’t mean it’s all right or that you have to listen to it.

Part of a thriving love life is finding what works for you, advice included. For many people, the popular dating advice that filled our ears growing up doesn’t work anymore. And it’s perfectly OK if you’re one of those people.

Plenty of dating advice exists for different kinds of people. Find what works for you and stick to it.

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Dating, relationship, and self-love writer. Helping the hopeless romantics of the world feel more hopeful.

Los Angeles, CA

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